Moving to France: Requirements for non E.U. citizens

Created: Nov 27, 2020 | Updated: Dec 10, 2020

If you are not an E.U., E.E.A, Swiss or British citizen, moving to France is not as straightforward. There will be restrictions on how long you can stay, what you can do there, and what you need to do, if anything, before you arrive. Whether you want to visit France as a tourist, a business person, study, work or retire, you need to find out whether you need a visa or residence permit, discover what documents you need, if any, and whether you need them translated into French or not. 

The purpose of this article is to help this diverse, but large group of people know how to proceed with all these formalities.


Moving to France

This guide explains the legal requirements for moving to France if you're a non-EU, UK, EEA or Swiss Citizen. For French Residency requirements for UK citizens after Brexit, please refer to: French Residency Requirements For UK Citizens Post Brexit.

 

What is the difference between Schengen and the E.U.?

Many people get confused about what the term “Schengen” means and the difference between the Schengen area and the European Union. Basically, Schengen refers to the Schengen Agreement. This is an agreement on border rules between countries, most of which are E.U. nations, together with a few that are not in the E.U. Citizens of Schengen countries can visit, work and live in each others’ countries freely. 

The reason why these distinctions are important is that if you are visiting Europe you must have the right entry visa or permit and know which countries it is valid in and how long it is valid for. 

 

Short term stays in France: Do you need a Schengen visa?

As France is not just in the E.U., but also in the Schengen area, short term stays or visits for tourism or business purposes come under Schengen rules. You are allowed 90 days stay in any period of 180 days in the whole of the Schengen area. You can spend the whole of that time in France, or part of it in France and the rest somewhere else, like Italy or Spain. After 90 days in the whole of the Schengen area you must leave, even if it is just to the U.K. or Ireland and you can’t come back for another 90 days without applying for a long stay visa or visa de long séjour.

Do you need to apply for a visa for a visit of up to 90 days? This depends on your nationality. If you are a citizen of one of the so-called visa waiver countries, you can just turn up in France or anywhere else in any of the other Schengen countries and your passport will be stamped at entry for 90 days stay in any 180 day period. There is no visa required and all you need is your passport, valid for at least 6 months.

This will change towards the end of 2020, when the European ETIAS system is activated. This is an electronic visa waiver that can be obtained online before entering any Schengen country. Getting an ETIAS visa waiver will become compulsory for all those who currently don’t need a visa. The process has been touted as being easy and fast with only a small fee involved. Once you have an ETIAS approval, it should last 3 years before you need to apply for another. 

If you are not on the visa waiver list, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa in advance before setting foot in any of the Schengen countries.

To obtain a Schengen visa, you can only do it in your own country, or at least somewhere else other than a Schengen country. It takes time to arrange and you also have to make an appointment at the Consulate or Embassy of the first Schengen country you are going to land in. If that is France, then you will need to make an appointment with a French Consulate or Embassy in your own country and present the completed Schengen visa application form together with several other documents. 

Basically, these documents are intended to show the authorities that you are healthy and wealthy enough to support yourself throughout your visit, have a return ticket and don’t intend to stay, study or work there. You will need to have your documents translated into French (if you are first going to France) by a professional translator.

 

Moving to France: French residency rules

 
The long stay visa

If you want to stay in France for longer than 90 days, especially if you want to study, work, run a business, live or retire there, you will need a French long stay visa or visa de long séjour. You must apply for this in your home country, like the Schengen visa. Even if you are a citizen from a visa waiver country like the U.S., or Australia, you will still need a long stay visa for anything more than 90 days in France. 

Long stay visas may be extended after living in France for some time. You could apply for a temporary residence permit (carte de séjour temporaire) for up to a year at a time after the period of your long stay visa runs out. Even if you don’t want to stay for any longer than the period of your long stay visa, you will need to register at your nearest OFII office (the French Office for Immigration and Integration) wherever you live when you are in France, within 2 months in the country. 

To get a long stay visa, you will need to fill in an application form, have proof of why you want to stay in France like an offer of employment, an offer of an educational course, as well as proof of health insurance and the means to live while in France. You will also need to make an appointment at your nearest French Consulate or Embassy for an interview. A list of documents for a long stay visa is given below. You will need to make sure these are all in French or translated into French by a sworn French translator.

 

Moving to France for Retirement & Gaining Citizenship

If you are thinking of moving to France after spending time there you will need to either apply for a French permanent residence permit (carte de séjour permanent) or French citizenship. In either case, you will need to have proof that you have spent at least 5 years living continuously in France.  You can make up the necessary time by obtaining consecutive temporary residence permits (carte de séjour temporaire). These permits are usually issued for a year at a time, but may be issued for up to 2 years depending in why you have applied for it in the first place. For example, if you have a work contract or are self-employed, your temporary residence permit may be issued for up to 2 years.

Citizenship may be applied for earlier than 5 years if you are married to a French citizen or graduate from a French University.

Permanent residence is easier to obtain than French citizenship, but there benefits to both. If you love France, its people and the culture, becoming a French citizen by naturalisation is a big step but more rewarding. You will be allowed to vote and keep your own passport of origin. Applicants for French citizenship must have a very good command of both the French language and French culture as they will be expected to be interviewed at their local préfecture.

A list of documents needed for French permanent residence and citizenship are listed below.

As with all other visas and permits, all your documents must be in French, or translated into French, by a sworn translator.

 

Documents required for French residence permits and visas

 

Documents needed for a Schengen visa

  • Visa application form. Fully completed and signed.
  • Two recently taken photos must be attached.
  • A valid passport.
  • Round trip reservation or itinerary.
  • Travel insurance policy.
  • Proof of accommodation.
  • Proof of financial means. Bank account statement – that shows you have enough money in your account for the trip. The statement shall be no older than 3 months.
  • Sponsorship Letter
  • Proof of paid visa fee;
  • all documents to be accompanied by a sworn translation if not in French.

 

Documents needed for French long stay visas (visa de long séjour)

  • Valid passport with at least 3 months validity;
  • Long-stay visa application form (Cerfa no. 14571*05);
  • Three recent passport photos;
  • Proof of health insurance;
  • Proof of reason for long stay visa such as employment contract, offer of educational course, etc.;
  • Proof of financial means while in France, e.g. bank statement, proof of assets;
  • Proof of accommodation in France; e.g. rental contract;
  • Certificate of criminal record of the home country;
  • Proof of paid France long stay visa fee;
  • all documents to be accompanied by a sworn translation if not in French.

 

Documents needed for moving to France / French permanent residence permits (carte de séjour permenent)

  • proof of place of residence in France; this could be a utility bill or bank statement or anything that shows your residential address
  • proof that you spent 5 continuous years in France. They do not have to be recent.
  • proof of identity, e.g. passport or other official identity card;
  • all documents to be accompanied by a sworn translation if not in French.

 

Documents needed for French citizenship applications by naturalisation:

  • a “declaration of honour” which both spouses need to sign in person at the préfecture or consulate;
  • birth certificate;
  • marriage certificate obtained within the last three months;
  • copies of ID for all applicants;
  • proof of address with your full name;
  • proof of length of residence;
  • proof of not having a criminal record;
  • proof of length of marriage to a French citizen if relevant;
  • proof of the spouse being a French citizen at the time of marriage if relevant;
  • proof of French postgraduate degree if relevant;
  • proof of sufficient knowledge of the French language;
  • two copies of the French nationality application form, signed and dated;
  • all documents to be accompanied by a sworn translation if not in French.

 

Translation requirements for Schengen visas, French Residency or French Citizenship

It is essential to ensure all documents needed for French residence permit and citizenship applications are translated into French before submission. Professionally translated documents mean there will be less confusion and opportunity for miscommunication. Also, as the time to process a permit in your local préfecture may take several months, having translated documents should help to speed things up. When you get your documents translated, make sure that they are also translated as sworn French translations so that they are authentic. This latter is a compulsory prerequisite for all French residence and citizenship applications.

 

More about sworn translations

A sworn translation or traduction assermentées, has the same legal value as an official document as the original document as far as the French government is concerned. The sworn translation must always be accompanied by the date and the signature of the sworn translator, a stamp and a unique registration number. 

As all documents you need for a French temporary or permanent residence permit or citizenship by naturalisation must be translated into French, if not already in French, it is important to choose a professional French English translator who is authorised to make sworn translations. 

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